As life goes, things never quite work out the way we would like it to be. If it would, yesterday’s entry of This Day in Baptist History Past should have been today. It was about the godly wives of Benjamin Keach, the pastor at the Baptist church in Horsleydown, London in 1668. You can go to The Trumpet on Line at http://the-trumpet-online.com/ and scroll down the right to July 18 entry to read the tribute of these righteous preachers wives, one of which died early in life.
Only the Judgment Seat of Christ will fully reveal the contribution that pastors, evangelists, and missionaries wives have made toward the advancement of the Christian Faith. On the left side of the TOL you can see a prayer request for Tressie Sileven Ramsey. I can still see her in 1982 going toe to toe, and eye to eye with the authorities in Nebraska, like a mother hen protecting the little children in their unlicensed Christian school. Another bold pastor’s wife of modern times is Joyce Lilly. I can still see her facing those U.S. Attorney’s in Indianapolis without flinching as she refused to admit that her husband had done anything wrong, even though it cost her 14 hard months in the Women’s prison at Alderson, W.VA. And then there is Joy Hovind who spent a year and a day in a federal prison, who also committed no crime and still faithfully waits for Bro. Kent to come home after spending nearly seven years in federal facilities for trumped up crimes.
No man appreciates their wife as they should. After seeing the birth of their second child, a pastor said to his wife, “Lisa, it’s all right with me if we never have another child. I’ll never put you through this again.” They had four more children after that. Women are tough.
There is no way that I could ever repay my precious wife for these nearly sixty years that she has stood by my side through the thick and thin, the lean years and the full, the tears and the smiles. Besides bearing three wonderful children, our pastor son, Rev. Greg A., our daughter Robin and our youngest daughter Jennifer, who have given us nine grandchildren and two great grand-sons between them, she found time to serve the church in every possible capacity without pay.
She was the church secretary for seven years, she has kept the nursery, and also taught a Jr. Hi boys class, besides her great love of singing in the choir. She was always there for personal counseling with those of all ages. Everyone loved her. When they would get upset with me, she was always there to smooth things over. But she didn’t take any guff off anyone either.
In all of the attacks against us I never saw her waver, complain or become bitter. Twice when we received phone calls that “they were coming to kill us” she never expressed one moment of fear. Every time we received a call during the service that a bomb was set to go off, sitting behind me in the choir, it was her calm assurance in saying, “I’m not leaving” that caused others to just stay in their seats and remain steady. If we evacuated the building every time we had a bomb threat, from either those who despised the gospel or the pranksters, they would have had us on their string like a yoyo. I’ll never forget that night when the wind came and blew the big tent down and everyone ran, she was still standing there, by herself, holding onto the center pole.
When I was near death at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota in the summer of 1969, and laid for many weeks in ICU, I literally lived to hear her footsteps coming down the hall. I recognized them and could tell when she was coming. It was her daily reading of the scriptures to me that brought me through, other than asking Dr. McElrath to order a blood test, which he did reluctantly, which showed peritonitis, which if they hadn’t found it when they did, I probably wouldn’t have made it. Even at that I was clinically dead that night for three minutes after surgery. I literally owe my life to her.
Altogether I have been arrested four times for Christ and liberty. Once was in Atlanta when we stood against Abortion. I was in the Key Road facility for ten days with one hundred other preachers. I must admit that I did get upset with her when I finally got her on the phone, and only had three minutes left to talk, I said, “What are you doing?” I thought she would say something spiritual, like, we are having wall to wall prayer meetings for you. But no, she said, “I’m canning beans.” Boy were my feelings hurt.
Everyone loved her, men and women alike. But she was tough when she had to be. You didn’t want to put anything over on her. We had this big teen bully that kept hitting girls on the arm, including my wife. Wanda told him that he had better never do it again. Well he came up to her in front of a large group of people in the foyer of the church and hit her hard on the arm. She grabbed his arm and put him on the floor in front of everyone. Needless to say, he didn’t do that again.
A man one day impeded her from going down a narrow street. She asked politely to move his car and he said, “It would take more than a Red Headed B…. like you to get me to do it.” She just got out of her car and busted him in the mouth with her right hand that she had a big ring on. He got a red bandana out of his hip pocket and put it up to his lip and got in his car and drove off. I said, “Honey, what made you so mad? She said, “Well if he just hadn’t called me red headed.”
When the IRS through, the U.S. Justice Dept. ordered us out of home in 1999 because it was a part of the Judgment that the federal court had given when Judge Barker ruled on their behalf against the Baptist Temple in our Church/State case. We had five days to move everything into storage, and to move a few clothes into one room in the basement of our son’s home. I was busy at the church and couldn’t help her. People from the church came to help her and she did the impossible task, which involved going through things of thirty years in that we had moved there in 1969. Through it all, even though the church had given us the home for our retirement, she had never complained one time. In fact her answer to someone who said something to her was to quote the words to the old quartet song, “Just Wait Till’ You See Me in My New Home.”
Wanda has an incredible faith in God. When our daughter lost her leg to cancer when she was 15 years old, her faith never wavered. Bill Gaither called me to tell me that he was praying for us and asked if there was anything that he could do. I said Bill, “Will you send us a tape of “There’s Something About a Mountain.” It is one of her favorite songs. We were at Mayo Clinic at the time and it wasn’t long until it came. We would leave the hospital, get in the car and put in the old eight track and play that song over and over again. What a blessing it was.
God has been good to us. Robin just turned 56 years old in March. Her daughter Danielle graduates from the University of Tennessee with her Phd and will go to work for Eli Lilly Drug Co. in Indianapolis. What a blessing to see our son continue on with our church in Indianapolis and see the ministry there continue to flourish. Our youngest daughter Jennifer and her husband Eric live in Phoenix, have four children and have a blessed marriage ministry called AMFM – American Family Ministries. We will celebrate our 60th wedding anniversary Sept. 4th. Someone asked my wife one day, “Can you give me the secret to your long marriage?” She said, “We just wanted to prove my mother-in-law wrong. My mother had predicted that our marriage wouldn’t last six months. Well we fooled her. Needless to say, they became great friends and Wanda spent the last days of my mother’s life caring for her at her home in Wichita, Kansas.
I will end where I began, there can be no ending when you begin writing about the pastor’s wife. Most of what they do is not done in the sight of others but behind the scenes in a thousand unknown ways that only God Himself knows and he alone can reward. She has to bite her lip, and remain silent, she has to be embarrassed when her husband puts his foot in his mouth and console him and try to make the best of it. She is the one who shops for the cheaper dress and yet she wants to look her best but doesn’t want to be criticized for being extravagant.
Only the Lord knows the years of physical suffering that my dear wife has had to endure without ever asking why me? For years migraine headaches rendered her almost helpless to do anything but lay down between services at church so she could at least attend the regular scheduled meetings. Most of the members never really knew. Thankfully the Lord was merciful and provided a wonderful and permanent cure. And then in her later years she has been bed ridden most of the time with deteriorating spinal pain and arthritis besides three leaking heart valves and Atrial fibrillation (a fib). Last year at Mayo Clinic they refused to operate for fear that she wouldn’t survive the surgery. Added to that is chronic fatigue syndrome which is not only nearly totally debillitating but impossible for others, including the medical community to understand. Her Bible and I Pad which helps her keep in touch with her family and friends is most precious to her. Every day that the Lord allows us to be together is a miracle that I cherish.
On this my wife’s birthday I just want to say, thank you precious Christian wife for being willing to share these sixty years with me on this great journey in the Lord’s work. It’s been great, I wouldn’t have missed it for anything in the world.